Fort Jadhavgadh is located a mere 40 minutes – or fourteen kilometers – from the heart of Pune, Maharashtra. From my parents’ house in Pune, the ride takes barely thirty minutes. Instead of going the smooth road to Lonavala or Mahabaleshwar, my best friend Avni and I decided to take the more bumpy, rugged trail (literally!) to this 300 year-old Maratha fort.
Fort Jadhavgadh touts itself as a luxurious experience that promises to take you back in time to Maratha royalty. The property prides itself as the first and only heritage fort hotel in Maharashtra and is most popular with visitors from nearby cities.
As we drove through the nondescript sandstone pillars off the side of the Hadapsar-Saswad highway, the fort suddenly loomed over us as if to say “intruders beware”. Although perched on a small hillock, the fort sits in a larger valley surrounded by the rocky terrain of the Dive Ghat, unusual for a structure of its kind.
Fort Jadhavgadh was built in 1710 by Maratha General, Shri Pilaji Jadhavrao who was in the army of Chattrapati Shahu Maharaj, grandson of the great Maratha ruler Chattrapati Shivaji. The fort seems smaller and less threatening than most of its Maratha counterparts like the Sinhagad fort, probably because it was meant as Jadhavrao’s residence. However, it still exudes fine Maratha craftsmanship.
Jadhavrao is believed to have constructed the eponymous fort to regain some of the lost glory to the rival Mughals, who had some control over the Maratha region under their recently deceased ruler Aurangazeb (d. 1707).
The fort was found new life as a hotel in 2008 under Kamat Hotels. You can still experience some of that Maratha royalty as you climb up the wide stairs originally meant for elephants into the main entrance, only to be greeted by the toot of the tutari (horn) of the mavla (Maratha soldier) accompanied by sonorous sounds of a drum, beaten by a lady dressed in a traditional nine-yard saree.
Since we were there for only a night, we opted for the Hill View Dalaan room and I am so glad we did. We got the room on the corner that faces the hill we would climb the next day. It was a sunny day, interspersed with the occasional cloud – but oh, what a relief from the usual view of tall, mostly unfinished buildings of Pune.
The other rooms are spread over the fort’s three wings and comprise the Royal Suites, Darbari Suites, Varsha Suites, Chaavni’s, & Kholi’s and the Neem Forest Cottages – a total of 58 in all.
Touring the Fort
As a guest, the hotel offered us two complimentary self-guided audio tours around the property. So off we went. The tour begins at the reception and guides you through more than 25 stations through the fort, as it recounts the history of the Jadhavgadh fort and the surrounding Dive ghats. Watch out for the dungeons inside the fort too!
A section of the tour takes you through the Aai Museum on the property which houses a modest, albeit interesting artefacts from the Maratha period. The tour lasts about an hour – if done in earnest.
We briefly returned back in our room – hot and sweaty – only to rush out again, this time to the lovely pool under some champa, neem, bael and sweet frangipani trees, many of which were over 100 years old. Also known as the “kund”, the pool uses the fort’s rainwater harvesting system and is supposedly temperature controlled, although we were freezing inside.
After our cooldown, we were famished so we ordered a delicious medley of pakoras and hot masala tea and chomped them in our bathrobes as we took in the view of the hill from our room.
Soon it was time for dinner. The hotel houses two restaurants – Chhajja and Payatha – with menus that feature Indian, Continental and traditional Maharashtrian fare. We decided to try out Chhajja since our buffet breakfast was to be held at Payatha. So, we sat in candlelight under the trees in the fort and ordered Maharashtrian kombdi gawaran masala which was truly a scrumptious chicken curry. Very spicy following Maharashtrian tradition, but at least we tried something new!
Full-filled and fed-up (like my grandma used to say after a hearty meal), it was time for a sair to aid digestion. So up we climbed to the pool which was so peaceful under the blank midnight-blue sky. It was lit-up and could very well serve as a romantic venue, provided that you are with your significant other!
After a lengthy photoshoot in our best dresses, Avni and I traversed the fort along its ramparts. The night was still and the lights from the fort cast long shadows all around; it was as if we were back in the time of the grand Marathas.
The next morning, we embarked on a trek at 6.30 am. Climbing one of the hills that surround the fort, we could understand why most bloggers make this trip during the monsoons. The terrain was arid and dry, brown all-round – complete opposite to all the pictures of the lush-green ghats that Avni and I had seen.
Nevertheless, once you’re atop the hill, the guide explains in great detail the history of the area. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to see another the more popular Malhargad Fort, a backdrop for many Bollywood and Marathi films.
The trek is an easy one – about two kilometers one-way and by the time you finish, you’re just in time to rush to Payatha for a lavish breakfast spread before checking out and finally descending the grand steps back to your car.
The Jadhavgadh Fort is perfect for sudden getaways from cities nearby. However, it is advisable to use your own transport to reach there. While I would highly recommend spending a night at this beautiful property, those simply looking for a day-trip will not be disappointed since the hotel offers a few packages. These include meals, audio tours and a ton of activities aimed towards the family including bird watching, pottery making, ziplining, bullock cart rides, mehendi sessions, spa, sports like badminton, among others.
My experience at Jadhavgadh Fort was exquisite, but it was not my first time in a fort. If you want to read more about India’s heritage fort hotels, please read my post on the Neemrana fort palace, another luxurious heritage stay a few kilometers outside the Delhi capital region.